In Gary Maas’ flower shop, an old photograph of him as a boy holding bushels of hydrangeas hangs on his wall.
The 74-year-old florist said he’s always had an affinity for flowers as he arranged a bouquet similar to the hundreds he’ll make for Mother’s Day.
Second only to Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day is the busiest time of the year for Gary’s Flower Shoppe, 1910 E. 38th St.
During Mother’s Day weekend, Maas, along with assistant Steve Leise, longtime associate Tom Przepierski and several retired friends in the flower business, arrange 250 to 300 bouquets, which sell for $35 and up.
“Each bouquet could be unique, but we try to make a lot of the same ones to match the prices but sometimes you’ll get the other ones where people call and want a $300 bouquet,” Maas said.
Weeks in advance, Maas orders nearly 3,000 flowers to use for Mother’s Day arrangements, including lilies, roses, hydrangeas, carnations and daisies.
“And those all have to be put in water when they come in, so that’s a job in itself,” Maas said.
Although many of the bouquets have a similar appearance, Maas tries to give each a unique touch, drawing from the flowers themselves.
“We always have different flowers, so in your mind, you’re like, let’s put these together, let’s put those together,” he said. “For example, birds of paradise are really exciting, they’re exotic, so I like to use those and then I pick up on the orange so I use orange lilies and orange gerbera daisies then I’ll add some blue delphinium in because of the blue in the birds of paradise.”
Last Mother’s Day, Maas and his colleagues had to find unique ways to create bouquets.
“We weren’t expecting it to be as big as it was and all of a sudden we were running out of flowers,” Maas said. “I think because everybody just had it with the pandemic … people just wanted to celebrate something.”
Maas expects he’ll fill a similar number of orders this Mother’s Day, but the callused hands and long hours are worth it when it comes to the end product.
“I’ve been in retail my whole life, so it’s about the interaction with the customers and I think just the excitement of seeing the arrangements come together,” he said.
Arranging something special
When it comes to flowers, Cheryl Vicary knows she can rely on Maas.
Since 1988, Vicary, of Summit Township, has gone to Maas with all of her floral needs.
“I went to an event with an opening at the art museum and when I walked in there were these magnificent flower arrangements,” she said. “Having just come from Tampa where things were much more over the top and extremely creative when it came to florals, I took a look at Gary’s flowers and went, ‘Oh my gosh,’ because this is what I was accustomed to.”
When Vicary and her husband owned their business, Vitco Corporation in Waterford, she decorated her lobby with arrangements from Maas, and has since purchased flowers from Maas for other occasions.
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“I’ve only ever — since 1988 — dealt with Gary, whether it was Mother’s Day, Easter, Christmas, funerals, it doesn’t matter, he’s the only one I ever call, and he’s the one my children call,” Vicary said.
Before Vicary’s mother died, she always sent her Mother’s Day flowers from Maas.
“Generally speaking my mother loved of all things carnations, which I’m not fond of. But I’d put some of those in there to make her happy,” she said. “I liked the roses, gerbera daisies, lilies … just a real mix that looked like spring.”
Rather than buy flowers from a supermarket, Vicary is happy to spend the extra money on Maas’ arrangements because she knows the effort that goes into making them.
“There are bouquets of flowers and then there are bouquets of flowers,” she said. “I’m not interested in a bouquet that’s mostly greens and a few tired-looking flowers thrown in. When I order flowers I want them to be special.”
This article originally appeared on Erie Times-News: Gary’s Flower Shoppe prepares hundreds of Mother’s Day bouquets